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Upendra, an excellent cook, regularly spent Saturday
afternoon and Sunday morning preparing an assortment of tasty dishes:
rice, vegetables, salted peanuts with raisins, buttery halava, and
thick, cold sweet rice pudding. These were served to guests in small
quantities. Upendra had been personally taught to cook by Prabhupada,
and Upendra had taught Upananda. And now Upananda was teaching me!
"What an honour", I thought.
By now the gulab jamuns were soaking in their thick
syrup. Upananda sloshed in a good quantity of highly scented rose
water, filling the kitchen with a divine fragrance. The sweets looked
good enough to eat right now, I thought, but Upananda seemed to
read my mind. "No", he explained, "these are for
the 'Love Feast' on Sunday".
Prabhupada had originally adopted the name 'Love
Feast' back in 1966, and he had told the devotees that such feasts
for the public should become an important part of the Hare Krishna
movement. "Vegetarian food offered to Krishna becomes spiritual",
Upananda said, "and whoever eats the food - called prasadam
- receives great spiritual benefit."
What Upananda said next really impressed me. "This
cooking is actually called bhakti-yoga, the yoga of love",
he said. "Giving people spiritual life in the form of delicious
pure vegetarian food cooked with love is what bhakti-yoga is all
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